Wednesday, 29 April 2009

23,000 Hackney tenants used as a bargaining chip, Mayor claims

Someone was definitely playing politics at last night's full council meeting - but who?

I've got a feeling that the following report may be focusing on what Mayor Pipe wanted everyone to focus on - his allegations - rather than the passing of a controversial policy on housing extensions. According to some at tonight's meeting, this piece of local legislation has jammed up swathes of council officers for at least three years. (I don't know, most of this stuff was new to me)

It was also claimed that the council's position on this issue could prompt legal challenges from representatives of Stamford Hill's orthodox Jewish community who have been calling for looser planning rules in their communities to allow large families to modify their homes.

The council's position has been described as racist in the past - although such claims were not made last night, but feelings were high.

However the strongest comments came from Mayor Pipe, who accused Cllr Simche Steinberger - one of the champions of the orthodox cause - of abusing his position as chair of the borough's overview and scrutiny board.

In his statement to the council Pipe said that he had had to invoke emergency mayoral powers to ensure that 23,000 hackney house holds had their rents cut in line with government guidelines. The cuts will see these households save an average of £140 in rent per year.

Pipe claimed that efforts to push the decreases quickly through the council could have been hampered by Steinberger who, Pipe said, had refused to include the item in the formal council process unless certain conditions were met.

Pipe told the council that Steinberger refused to help unless his concerns about the handling of the controversial Residential Alterations and Extensions policy were addressed.

Pipe said that Steinbeger had been prepared to "withhold money from 23,000 households" in what he described as an "incredible abuse of his position." He said: "23,000 people could have had their rent decreases delayed and you used that as a bargaining chip." He asked what would have happened if he had not had special powers allowing him to by-pass the process.

Steinberger said: "What Mayor Pipe said is not what happened. I got a call in the morning saying what about this item. I hadn't seen any paper work and I asked officers what it was about." He said that Pipe had not returned his calls.

Cllr Coggins defended his fellow Conservative saying that Steinberger had a legitimate complaint about the way the council had dealt with the Residential Alterations and Extensions Policy. He said that he did not know that the item in question was related to rent decreases.

The council passed its recommendations on the extensions policy but not before a recorded vote was called. 34 passed the recommendations, 11 voted against and there was one abstention.

Guardian: Do Stamford Hill Jews need intergration?

And there's an interesting, but old debate at in a piece called Yellow Brick Road.

Other stuff:

The deputy business editor of the Times thinks Hackney has made good progress and believes it is a beacon for enterprise: The success story that Labour is writing off.

And then there's the government commendation for the borough's homelessness team.

No comments:

Post a Comment